Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hudson Bay Blankets

Remmington an illustrator for Harper's weekly of New York
did this illustration for Nov.1888 issue. He did the article
'Antoines Mooseyard' about Mattawa two years later . In that
article there is a self portrait of the artist in a capote(blanket coat)
made from a Hudson Bay Point Blanket . The blanket came from the
HBC post in Mattawa at that time .
The Hudson Bay Company was given all lands that were drained by rivers and their tributaries into Hudson Bay , by Charles II of England in 1670. This was done arbitrarily with no discussion or treaty with Aboriginal Nations who lived on that land. They simply became another resource as was the beaver and other fur bearing animals in Canada .

New colour and sizes were added as style
changed but the original colours with points
remain part of the collection .
photo from http://www.nativecanadian.ca/
The Hudson Bay Blanket was an important commodity for trade with Aboriginal peoples who brought furs in exchange for Company goods . The Company set a standard exchange rate , but local Company employees , isolated from 'head office' and immediate oversight , often increased the rate for personal gain . The blankets , however, were traded by point at the beginning.
One point= one made beaver (fully dressed)

From 1670 until 1805 , the HBC Point blankets were woven by hand at the Witney Mills in Oxfordshire , England by various local companies . Eventually all wool mills standardized their mills to the standards expected by the HBC for trade in North America . Those expectations were determine by the popularity among Aboriginal peoples with whom the HBC traded . The size of the blanket was indicated by a number of points sewn into one side of the blanket . The blankets at the Height of the fur trade ranged from 1 to 4 and included half points , 4 being the largest .

Metis and French Canadians who worked as voyageurs adopted the  HBC Point blanket which was made into a hooded coat called a capote . Each area from which these voyageurs came was represented by a particular colour : Red with black stripe- Quebec ; Blue with black stripe- Montreal ; multi stripe on any background- Trois Rivieres . Aboriginal People preferred the white blanket with multi colour / black stripe . This type made good camouflage in the winter hunt .

These blankets were and still represent 'Canadian' across the world having been a part of it's history for over 340 years . There is nothing like a warm Hudson Bay Blanket for cold Canadian winters .

Check out these sites for more on the story of Point Blankets:



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